Caring for a newborn is full time work.
In the first weeks of your baby’s life it may feel like your house is falling apart. This can be a major source of conflict for couples if they find themselves disagreeing about what the role of a stay-at-home parent is. One way to manage this is to renegotiate household chores. This is pretty easy to do!
- Start by making a list of all the household tasks each of you were responsible for in your pre-baby life.
- Then, sort the lists into two categories:
- Stuff You Gotta Do (i.e. make dinner or feed the dog)
- Stuff You Can Let Slide (i.e clean the bathroom or gardening)
- First look at the Stuff You Gotta Do list. Does this seem fair now that the baby has arrived? If not, move responsibilities around. Consider paying someone to do the stuff that feels overwhelming, such as using a grocery delivery or laundry service.
- Next look at the Stuff You Can Let Slide list. Individually prioritize each task on the on the list in order of importance to each of you.
- Finally, review your prioritized Stuff You Can Let Slide lists together. Let go of anything you agree is not very important right now. As for the stuff that remains, divide it in a way that is reasonable. Again, consider hiring someone to take over some tasks (if affordable).
At this point, it’s most important the division of labor feels fair, rather than focusing on chores being equally split between the two of you. This may mean that a parent breastfeeding on demand only has one responsibility – to feed the baby – while the other parent does bulk of the laundry, meal prep and cleaning. It could also mean that each of you are responsible for the chores that are most important to you, but you only complete them when your partner is on ‘baby duty’.
When it comes to domestic work, who-should-do-what is a loaded topic. Although I personally subscribe to a feminist-equity approach, I know that every couple divides this up in a unique way. This activity generally only works if both of you felt that the division of household labor was fair prior to the arrival of the baby. If that’s not you, I suggest reading a copy of the Arlie Hochschild book “The Second Shift” and giving me call.
Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP